- The Infelicitous Traffic
I. The Valongo
before we can see it the smell of the valongo stings our nostrils in greeting we leave the docks in a chain passing along the low banks heavy wetness of sand our legs are not strong our stomachs will not hold food but we have not yet stopped thinking about home though it is a hazard the carioca winter is wet red caps for our horrid curls striped cotton panel for sex (concession to travelers taking umbrage at the nakedness of slaves along public roads) death stench of grey bodies half-covered with dirt and the shoveled excrement of warehouses at the pier we were not crying but now there are so many of us
II. The Homesickness Disease
in the night visions of our own countries o banzo the fatal nostalgia will come for us will rap on our doors on the floors of the hallways where we sleep we will see it even in daylight shine back at us from fetters and bells on the necks of those recaptured in the absent places of the drumming second sound overbeat where the hidden mouth is talking it will come for us weaving a crooked string tear our hearts into fine shreds for some of us this will be soon and we will scratch the life out of our throats with stones and silty earth we are not patient with this unfreedom nor accustomed to its byzantine diminishments but some of us must wait those who do not trust the forests or who bide time or who loosen their veins into the quagmires of an invented life or vanish into the spun rage of masters o banzo defers sleeps inside marrow holds breath will come when we are older and our knees have become bony and wide ”they die of it this longing for their country young ones who will not eat old ones of crippled stature sit by the waters of an afternoon humming their prayers into the ocean”
III. Os Prêtos Velhos: Os Bisnetos
night water watch of sand broken stars and the low humming of prayers it is we this time at the ocean edge though whatever sight we claim is gift is incomplete by grace emsp; of whose purging the fathomless horrors purposive forgetting has gifted our genetic memory abridgement for succor on the sand lateral stretch of beach our unseeing eyes ;stroke holes into the horizon though what we search for is not found there some things are kept from us grief of salt swollen lamentation shunted overboard the numberless
Rachel E. Harding, a native of Atlanta, is a Latin American historian, writer and arts consultant living in Denver, Colorado. Her work has appeared previously in Callaloo as well as in other literary magazines and in anthologies.